by Irvin Muchnick
A week before the court hearing on Concussion Inc.’s motion, under the state Public Records Act, to daylight the University of California-Berkeley’s 141 pages of campus police reports in the 2014 Ted Agu football conditioning death, the key information on the most recent similar death remains in limbo.
On August 1, 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth became at least the 33rd non-contact fatality in college football practices and conditioning sessions since 2000 when he collapsed in his dorm at Garden City Community College in Kansas following the team’s first practice — in the heat and at 2,800 feet of altitude higher than his sea-level New Jersey home.
Some expired student-athletes have more formidable public constituencies than others. When Jordan McNair died of complications from a heat stroke sustained during offseason drills at the University of Maryland, ESPN jumped in to expose the holes in the university’s account and the “toxic culture” of the football program; Maryland’s president, Wallace Loh, and head football coach, DJ Durkin, wound up losing their jobs in the ensuing investigation and outrage.
Like McNair, Ted Agu was at a name-brand Division I program — even if he was just a walk-on casualty, and even if Cal’s cover-up of his sickle cell trait exertional collapse cause of death, and of the equally toxic culture of then coach Sonny Dykes’s strength and conditioning assistant Damon Harrington, has flown mostly under the radar of the mainstream media.
But Braden Bradforth was at a junior college in southwestern Kansas — and almost no one at all is following through on the scenario there.
The medical examiner of Finney County, of which Garden City is the seat, has yet to issue the autopsy findings in the Bradforth death.
Jeff Sims, the Garden City head football coach, asserted to the media on day one that Bradforth had expired from a “preexisting condition” that had nothing to do with football. Sims has no medical background to support such a claim. Since then, the community college athletic department has undergone a shakeup due to unrelated scandals, and Sims is the assistant director as well as football coach.
Customarily, coroners release findings within 90 days. Depending on whether this clock was legitimately stopped on non-business days, the Finney County authorities may not yet be tardy. As soon as the autopsy is out, we’ll have facts and interpretations here.
The Garden City Broncbusters finished a 10-0 season with a national No. 2 ranking among junior colleges. They are scheduled to play No. 1 East Mississippi in the JUCO championship game on November 29. Still to be determined is whether Coach Sims’s won-loss record has reduced scrutiny of the Bradforth death, and whether a win-at-all-costs philosophy is a partial explanation for it.